A friend of mine who is a former Jesuit priest and clinical psychologist and a severe critic of the Church, had called me early morning one day. This was the day after Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013. The new Pope-elect had also taken the name ‘Francis’ after St Francis of Assisi who is known to the Catholic World as the ‘second Christ.’ My friend sounded very excited. He told me that the Holy Spirit seemed to be still working in the Catholic Church! I had to remind him that the Church of the crucified and risen Christ has always been guided by the Holy Spirit in spite of Popes and Bishops and people like him and me.
On the day of his election as the Pope, I had said a silent prayer thanking God for the gift of Pope Francis to the Church and the world at this particular juncture in history when both the Church and the world are threatened by violent forces of consumerism and materialism. Last four years have been years of great challenges for Pope Francis. He has been working very prayerfully, tirelessly and fearlessly to wake up the Catholic Church from the spiritual inertia and moral slumber that she had fallen into. He has been trying to bring Christ and His Gospel of love and peace back to the heart and centre of the Catholic Church once again.
Pope Francis today is both adored and opposed by a large number of people all over the world. He is now facing serious challenges from a number of conservative Cardinals and Bishops. There are also many other leaders of the Church and of the secular world among the increasing number of his critics. He has emerged as a great threat to their vested interests. There is a ‘Dharma Yudh’ in the making. The battle lines are being drawn and the battle cries are being heard. On whose side will we stand? With the Vicar of Christ who is a man of simplicity and humility, or with ‘powers and principalities’ of consumerism and materialism who want to make the Church a ‘Silicon Valley?’
I do believe that Pope Francis is a man of destiny chosen by the living Spirit of Christ to bring His Church out of its slavery to consumerism and materialism that are threatening to destroy world today. I also believe that just as the institutionalization of the Church had begun from Europe with Rome as its center, the spiritualization of the Church has to begin from India with Kerala as its centre. In this global ‘Dharma Yudh’ of the third millennium the Syro-Malabar Church has a very crucial role to play.
But the Syro-Malabar Church itself is faced with a similar crisis. The forces led by the Christ-Spirit of simplicity and humility and the forces led by ‘the powers and principalities’ of consumerism and materialism in the Syro-Malabar Church are already in the battle field. In the socio-spiritual milieu of India, the forces led by the Christ-Spirit of simplicity and humility are sure to win. This will in turn lead to a spiritual regeneration of the Syro-Malabar Church.
A spiritually regenerated Syro-Malabar Church will stand by Pope Francis and the Christ-Spirit of simplicity and humility in the global ‘Dharma Yudh’ of the third millennium against the ‘powers and principalities’ of consumerism and materialism that are threatening to destroy the Church and the world today.
Come, Oh Holy Spirit, come to be with us in our Dharma Yudh in this third millennium against the powers and principalities of consumerism and materialism that are threatening to destroy your Church and the world today.
– Swami Sachidananda Bharathi